Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ord of Caithness Part C Fatal Accident

Untimely Death of Margaret Polson of Navidale

John O Groat Journal 20 July 1855

Fatal Accident at the Bridge of the Ord

On the evening of Wednesday week at the Bridge of the Ord, occurred an accident of a very serious and fatal character, which has already occasioned the loss of one life, and likely to result in the death of another two individuals, besides inflicting injuries upon several others. In our second edition last week we gave such particulars of the disaster as had then reached us, and we repeat those with the additional information since received. On the evening in question a party of ten women (not twelve as at first reported), outworkers to Donald Horne, Esq. of Langwell, were returning from turnip-hoeing on the farm of Ousdale, on the Langwell estate, to Navidale, in Sutherland, about three miles distant. They were all in a cart, the horse in which, when at the sharp turn at the bridge, took fright and made off with a sudden spring, striking the cart against the parapet wall, throwing out the women, all of whom sustained injuries, three of them having their heads terribly bruised between the cart and the parapet, and their countenances greatly mangled. Of these three, one, named Margaret Polson, residing in Navidale, has died, after undergoing much suffering, and the other two are not expected to survive. The remaining seven were all more or less injured, but fortunately none of them dangerously; three of them escaping with slight bruises, and the other four sustaining rather severe contusions. A passenger by the mail who came north the next evening says the parapet of the bridge and the road-side were bespattered with the blood of the unfortunate women. No blame is attached to any one, the occurrence being purely accidental, and it is not known what frightened the horse.
Source: John O Groat Journal 20 July 1855. 
There are several other newspaper reports of this accident all of a similar nature. I could not find a report on the fate of the other injured women.

Bridge of the Ord, Caithness

The Ord Telford Bridge showing the parapets
The Ord bridge. The road now by-passes the old Telford bridge
Another view of the parapets on the Ord bridge. Source:


Margaret Polson was the daughter of William Polson (1776 – 1841-51) and Jane Bannerman (1778 – 1860). Margaret was born in Caen on 20 November 1820. The family had been cleared from Caen in Kildonan to Navidale probably in the 1824 Clearances. The hardships families endured during the Kildonan Clearances are well documented elsewhere.  See also Timespan Helmsdale for Caen historical information.
Extract from Polson Family Tree
Death record of Margaret Polson

Fractured Skull

The death certificate of Margaret tells us she suffered a fractured skull and died 6 days after the accident.  She was 34 years old. Margaret was buried in Helmsdale. She may be in an unmarked grave as I have not been able to locate her gravestone. Brother George Polson has signed her death certificate.
Helmsdale Cemetery from the Helmsdale Telford bridge


  1. Farr,

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    Have a great weekend!

    1. Thank you Jana for your generous comments and listing